Dimitrov Claims Maiden Master Title In Cincy -- Recap

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For the first time since Andre Agassi was still on tour, the ATP has seen three Masters titles in a row won by someone who is not named Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray. After Zverev conquered Rome and Montreal, a player from the oft-titled 'Lost Generation' of the ATP has won his first 1000 - Grigor Dimitrov.

A tournament where Baby Fed's namesake has so often found success saw, for the first time in years, a set of semifinalists that consisted of no members of the top ten. On a semifinals day on which the ATP tour saw no breaks of serve, Kyrgios and Dimitrov were left standing as two men contesting for the biggest titles of their career. Building on his strong start to the season, which landed him a couple of titles and a 5-set high-wire semifinal defeat to Nadal in Melbourne, Dimitrov was finally able this Sunday to break out of his mid-summer funk to straight-set Kyrgios for the Cincinnati title.

For all the aesthetic appeal of his backhand and serve, and the way his form evokes that of Federer, Dimitrov found a path to the title by playing very much like another member of the Big Four - Andy Murray. Employing his impressive athleticism to defend numerous Kyrgios forehands, Dimitrov found himself unable to miss. Exercising a simple tactic effectively - keeping the ball low to Nick's shovel-like backhand - the newly crowned Masters champion was able to side-step a flurry of double faults and overcome a barrage of huge second-serves to win by a break in each set.

Kyrgios, to his credit, did not contest poorly. Aggressive on the forehand side, and generally sharp on serve, he was undone by an inability to dig out shots on his backhand wing and an unwillingness to come forward to end points. However, for a player struggling with a hip injury as recently as a week ago, losing in both tournaments to the eventual champion is no small achievement - especially when a win aside from those consists of routing the new world number one.

Ahead of the US Open, Cincinnati has raised a multitude of questions about what might be the most open slam in recent history. Will Zverev, who followed up his back-to-back Masters' success with a first-round exit, have the fitness to contend in best-of-five? Will Kyrgios be able to overcome his hip to be a factor into the Open's second week? How will Dimitrov respond to his career-best year, and how will Nadal handle his return to the top spot - achieved with no non-clay titles to his name? All this and more remains to be seen, along with the state of Federer's back, the race for year-end number one, and Shapovalov's playing the qualifying.

In a few weeks, the tennis world might finally see the surge of a new generation, or we might get to witness a Fedal under the lights on Arthur Ashe. What is a certainty, however, is that Montreal and Cincinnati have been two of the most thrilling Masters 1000s in recent memory - and everything that's happened over the last couple of weeks should have tennis fans unquestionably excited.

Rafael Nadal’s Ascent to Number One

Let’s dial the clocks back by around a year. Federer had announced that he was taking the rest of the 2016 season off to rehabilitate his knee. Soon after, Nadal followed after his second-round loss in Shanghai to Victor Troicki.

Most people had expected a continued dominance of Djokovic and Murray, more preferring Murray due to his brilliant 2016 season. However, what followed was a 180o flip, with Nadal and Federer dominating, winning all three of the grand slams played so far and four Masters 1000 titles. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, and with Federer withdrawing from Cincinnati because of the back injury he suffered and Murray having already withdrawn from Cincinnati, Nadal is now guaranteed to become the World Number 1 on the 21st of August. Fantastic news!

Nadal has had a fantastic year. 2015 saw him struggle with confidence and his 2016 season was hampered due to injury. However, he has remained injury free this year. He’s motivated, confident and his game has seen subtle changes and improvements. His serve in Wimbledon was precise and lethal. His backhand is very solid. His volleying skills have seen improvement in placement. His forehand can be deeper, and that’s something he still needs to work on. But despite the small shortcomings, he has clinched the number one spot again for the first time in three years.

His dominance this clay season was a joy to watch and probably quite frightening for his opponents. He swept the entire clay season except for Rome where he lost to Thiem in the quarter finals. He won his 10th French Open. He reached the Australian Open final. 4 titles in 7 finals. Some great results, especially considering the drastically low expectations at the beginning of the year.

He had a comparatively good showing at Wimbledon as well. He lost in the fourth round in a gritty five-setter to Gilles Muller from Luxembourg. Muller is enjoying the best season of his life, and with him fine-tuning his already great serve and net skills, it was great to watch him win the match, though that meant Nadal once again had an early exit in Wimbledon.

This is where we bring our most important point. Nadal has been playing great; there’s no denying that. He’s in fine form. But like many of his previous season exploits, the Spaniard is losing to players most people have never heard of. He started the season with a bang, improved on it and swept the clay court season but then he started losing matches: he lost in Wimbledon to Muller and to Shapovalov in Montreal and now to Kyrgios in Cincinnati.

And while they’re not bad players by any means, these are players that Nadal would rip apart in the start of the season, when he is fresh. Which brings up another point: Should Nadal have a more relaxed calendar? Federer did that this entire season and won two grand slams.

Nadal’s game is extremely physical, and while he may have the fire and passion to want to play many events, he must realize that he’s becoming older. This is precisely why he’s never held on to the number one ranking for too long or won the tour finals. He’s gassed by the end of the year because he focuses more on the clay court season.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but he must realize that if he wants to hold onto that #1 ranking, he needs to make some tactical decisions regarding which events he plays and how much of his calendar he keeps full. Because keeping the body rested and fully ready to take the brunt of the season is something Nadal hasn’t yet figured out.

But until then, let’s enjoy some #1 Nadal madness.

Rafael Nadal - UNBELIVABLE

Western and Southern Open: QFs, SFs, Final Preview

The quarterfinals of the Cincinnati Open are almost underway, although two are yet to be determined due to rain delays. Let’s get straight into our predictions.

QF #1: YTD

After Nadal v Ramos-Vinolas was cancelled and Kyrgios v Karlovic was delayed at 3-4 in the first set, the matches have been moved to Friday, meaning that the winners will have to play twice in one day. Nadal should get past his fellow Spaniard, but he may have more trouble in the quarters, having to play a big server. 

Give me Kyrgios and Nadal in the quarters with the Aussie taking it in three tight sets.

Pick: Kyrgios in 3

QF #2: Thiem vs Ferrer

Dominic Thiem has had a great year so far, and the youngster is one of the leaders behind Rafa and Roger in the Race to London. Ferrer, on the other hand, is a veteran. The Spaniard hasn’t had the best year, but he’s performed well lately, taking Federer to three sets in Montreal.

Give me Thiem in straight sets. The veteran won’t be able to handle a younger opponent and his booming groundstrokes.

Pick: Thiem in 2

QF #3: Isner vs Donaldson

Perhaps the weirdest quarterfinal of them all, Isner and Donaldson will face each other for a spot in the semis. While Isner may not be that much of a surprise with his booking serve, Donaldson is. At just 21 years of age, the American was handled a wildcard, beating Bautista Agut and Basilashvili to get here.

The youngster may get a set, but Isner’s serve will overpower him, albeit in close sets and possibly tiebreakers.

Pick: Isner in 3

QF #4: Dimitrov vs. Sugita

Another surprising matchup, Baby Fed will take on the second ranked Japanese player in the world in Sugita. The Japanese player is ranked 46th in the world, and this will mark his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal. He has notched some impressive wins, including an upset against in-form Jack Sock. Dimitrov wasn’t any less impressive, defeating Lopez and del Potro en route to the quarterfinals.

Baby Fed may not have lived up to his moniker, but he’ll take this one against a less experienced player.

Pick: Dimitrov in 2

SF Picks

Kyrgios def. Thiem

Dimitrov def. Isner


Kyrgios def. Dimitrov

The Perks Of Playing Tennis With New Rivals

If you love to play tennis, you probably rely on a small group of people that also play —  friends from a tennis club, neighbours, colleagues from work or college friends.

It’s good to know people who share your love for the sport, but depending on a small group of friends to play a match can be frustrating.  A recent study conducted by Smash Tennis, an app for tennis players, with over 50 players in Miami, New York, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo shows that recreational tennis players have on average only 7 frequent opponents. This means that an amateur player is usually limited to 7 adversaries (and their availability).

And what’s the outcome of constantly playing against the same people? According to tennis specialists, this may slow down your progress and improvement. If you know your opponent too well, the game will become predictable, repetitive, and will lack stimulus. Your matches will be similar with little game variation. Also, you will not evolve your psychological game and your motivation will be affected.

It’s true we love to play with people we know and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s nice to chat with a friend before and after a game. Meeting new people is not easy at first and playing against someone we don’t know may feel sometimes awkward or embarrassing. However, it’s worth a try. Here’s why:

1. You will need to quickly learn about your new opponent during the game and you’ll become a more dynamic and versatile player in doing so.
2. You’ll be able to use your favorite moves efficiently. Remember, your new partner is also learning about you and your old tricks will work this time!
3. It will be a new challenge and this will increase your interest and motivation.
4. Learning about your opponent’s mental game is very stimulating.

To meet new opponents at your playing level, there are a couple of innovative apps like Smash Tennis (free on iOS and Android). With Smash Tennis,  it’s easy to search for players in your area and filter by age, level, and gender. You can also see your friends’ profile and their past opponents.

Another way to connect with new players is to ask around your community — tennis clubs, friends, tennis instructors — for an introduction.

The important thing to keep in mind is that by playing against new players, your game will evolve quickly, regardless if you win or lose a match!

Smash Tennis — Makes Finding Tennis Partners Easy

PRESS RELEASE: San Francisco, California — April 4th, 2017 — Smashtech is proud to announce Smash Tennis is now available from the App Store on iPhone and from Google Play on Android mobile devices. Smash Tennis is a mobile tennis app that helps players find local hitting partners, track match scores, and compete for rankings. Featuring a comprehensive player-search by age, skill level, and distance, tennis players will be able to find local hitting partners with ease, challenge them to matches, and quickly get on the courts.

In Smash Tennis, users create a profile with their picture and basic information such as location, age, gender, and experience level.  Players can then be discovered by other tennis players in their city and search for new hitting partners nearby.  In Smash, players can record and track their match scores to rise through the ranks locally and globally.  Players can create their own player groups to chat with friends and stay up-to-date when friends in the group play matches. Players can also chat with potential hitting partners or individual friends through Smash’s messenger function, as well as instantly schedule matches with one another and later record scores to update their rankings.

Currently the tennis world relies on NTRP ratings to match league and tournament players, but there is no system for matching recreational players.  Smash Tennis features a proprietary “Smash Rank” system that quickly ranks players of all experience levels after only a few recorded matches. This allows the app to match users accurately regardless if they have played in a tournament or recreational setting.  In addition, Smash Tennis provides players with detailed head-to-head statistics between its members, including win-loss ratios, games played, and leaderboard comparisons.  

The Smash Tennis app is available for free from the App Store on iPhone at https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1108416207

and from Google Play on Android at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smash_app.android.smash

About Smashtech

Smashtech reimagines how tennis players discover, connect, and play with one another.  Based in New York and San Francisco, Smashtech was formed by tennis players, coaches, and industry veterans who have collectively developed the app to unite the tennis players and communities around the world. For more information on Smashtech, visit: http://smash-app.com/

Fabio Flaksberg